Have you ever been working on a project when an amazing idea – for something unrelated – pops into your head?
When this happens do you:
- Continue working and hope that you will remember the idea later, risking that your flash of brilliance will disappear?
- Stop what you are doing to work on this idea, losing focus and falling behind on the original project?
Avoid Squirrels and Park Your Idea
My first introduction to the notion of an idea parking lot came from my business coach Stacey McKibbin when she referenced Dug from the animated movie UP. Dug (and the other dogs in the movie) would often get distracted by the scent of a squirrel.
Stacey reminded me that it’s easy for all of us to get distracted by our own “squirrels.” This is so true and it’s why I love the concept of the idea parking lot.
An idea parking lot allows you “park” your idea in a central location (or lot) so it will be there when you need it. This allows you to both capture your brilliance and quickly get back to the task at hand.
Paving Your Parking Lot
Your parking lot needs to meet your specific needs and habits. Do you like to write things down with pen and paper? Then simplicity may serve you best: designate a notebook or journal as your parking lot. Be sure to dedicate the entire notebook to your parking lot – otherwise you may have trouble locating and organizing your ideas.
Do you prefer a keyboard instead of a pen? There are various types of software and apps that will allow you to create an electronic version of your idea parking lot.
Personally, I use Evernote for my idea parking lot. Evernote is free and I can access my notes from my laptop (using a Chrome extension for easy access), my smartphone, and my tablet. I’m also able to create separate notes, categories, and tags for different types of ideas (blog posts, websites, marketing plans, what to buy at the store, etc.). This makes it easier for me to find the ideas I need for a specific project.
Other parking lot vehicles (pun intended) include (but are not limited to):
Test different methods and find the one that works best for you.
Drive Your Brilliance into the Lot
Whichever system you adopt, you need to use it. Be sure to access your parking lot not only when inspiration strikes, but also when you are ready to take action.
If you don’t find a place to keep your ideas, you may find yourself in one of these less-than-desirable scenarios:
- Stuck in a rabbit hole: I refer to the occasions where I chase my “squirrels” as “falling down a rabbit hole” (tip of the Mad Hatter’s hat to Alice in Wonderland). I tend to lose hours chasing an idea that was unrelated to the project I should be completing.
- Without your ideas: If you just assume that you will remember your idea later, chances are you will end up with only regret. Your ideas will vanish and you will berate yourself for not writing them down.
- Buried in a sea of Post-it notes: Before I created a specific parking lot, I would grab any piece of paper (often a Post-it note) and jot down my idea. By the end of the week, I would have a pile of unorganized notes and wonder where certain ideas disappeared to – since I was sure some of the notes were misplaced.
Be both productive and creative – start using an idea parking lot today.
Parking lot photo credit: © Valdore | Stock Free Images & Dreamstime Stock Photos Journal photo credit: © Lestodd | Stock Free Images & Dreamstime Stock Photos